For the solo Nicole created on me for HATCH Presenting Series (April 30th, come!), my first performance with Buggé Ballet (pretty please?), she chose sections from Max Richter’s recomposed version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Dutiful artist that I am, I started tuning into the music (both versions…through repeat listening, much to my roommate's dismay) and gathered some contextual background. On his impetus for the recomposing, Richter said in a 2014 interview with Classic FM radio: “When I was a young child I fell in love with Vivaldi's original, but over the years…I stopped being able to hear it as music…. I set out to try to find a new way to engage with this wonderful material, by writing through it anew.”
I’m fascinated by this idea of re-writing. As artists, we do this all the time. We re-write old stories in familiar mediums—recomposed symphonies, re-staged ballets—and also translate them into new ones: fairy tales become films, poems are realized as dances, paintings inspire literature.
Vivaldi’s Four Seasons actually had a poetic as well as a musical debut. Four sonnets with corresponding sections (spring, summer, autumn, winter) were released with the symphony in 1725, giving Vivaldi’s masterpiece a narrative element. With the accompanying words, the music comes alive with images of brooks winding through spring woods, summer skies laden with thunder clouds, wine-fueled harvest revelries, and perilous fissuring ice. Though it’s unclear who wrote these vivid stanzas, it’s safe to say that Vivaldi prompted a conversation between poetry and melody.
Richter expanded this conversation and so, too, will Nicole and I. I don’t at all plan to evoke the scenes described in the poetry (stanzas from Autumn 3 and Winter 2); Nicole didn’t create the piece with these in mind. Nor am I aiming for a particular mood, since some of Richter’s re-composed sections strike a notably different tone (pun intended) than the originals.
But I do want our audience to know about Four Season’s rich content/context: the many mediums its been translated into and the people—composers, musicians, writers, choreographers, dancers—behind its many re-writings. From music to music, word to music and back again, music to dance, these reincarnations exist not as consequential pieces, but as an artistic whole.
Nicole is planning to realize each of Richter’s movements in dance: the larger, longer piece will develop over the course of the year.
On Saturday, I hope you see that we are just scratching the surface.
Winter (Concerto No. 4 in F Minor)
Largo (section 2)
To spend quiet and happy times by the fire
While outside the rain soaks everyone.
Autumn (Concerto No. 3 in F Major)
Allegro (section 3)
The hunters set out at dawn, off to the hunt,
With horns and guns and dogs they venture out.
The beast flees and they are close on its trail.
Already terrified and wearied by the great noise
Of the guns and dogs, and wounded as well
It tries feebly to escape, but is bested and dies.